Women's Heart Advantage Educates Public About Cardiovascular Risk for Women

by Anne Fereday, director of cardiovascular services,
Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute

Though cardiovascular disease is still widely considered a "man's disease," statistics tell a different tale. In fact, heart disease is the top cause of death among women in the United States, striking more women than the next seven causes of death combined.

Cardiovascular disease kills a half million women in the United States each year - 10 times more than die from breast cancer. Postmenopausal women are more than twice as likely to develop heart disease as perimenopausal women, and mortality rates increase with age. Heart disease is no longer a male disease.

In recent years, the American Heart Association and other cardiovascular health organizations have made a sustained effort to drive home the point that women should be concerned about cardiac health - their own.

In September 2003, the Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute announced that it would support the Women's HeartAdvantage, a national awareness and education program that includes verified clinical improvement elements, consumer messages, and strategies and tools to help hospitals provide the best prevention and treatment outcomes possible for women with heart disease.

The objective of the Women's HeartAdvantage outreach effort is not only to educate women about their risks for cardiac disease, but to also inform physicians about the issue. It's important for women and healthcare providers alike to understand that symptoms of cardiovascular disease often present differently in women than men.

There are some symptoms of cardiac disease that are generally experienced by both men and women. However, there are other symptoms that are more commonly experienced by women and sometimes overlooked. Overlooking the symptoms of cardiac disease can be a fatal mistake.

Most people are aware of common heart attack symptoms for men: tightness in chest or intense pressure; shortness of breath; sweating and pain that spreads to shoulders, neck or arms. Women's symptoms may include the same warning signs that affect men, but commonly also include: indigestion or gas like pain; dizziness, nausea or vomiting; weakness and fatigue; discomfort or pain between shoulder blades; and a sense of impending doom.

Many women and some physicians are not fully aware of how the disease may manifest itself differently among women as compared to men. By encouraging women to learn the early warning signs of heart disease and talk to their physicians, many lives can be saved.

Common heart attack symptoms for men and women

Heart attack symptoms more common to women

The Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute is a full-service cardiovascular program located in Lewiston, Maine.

For more information go to https://www.cmhc.org/cmmc.


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